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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4450

Mr HEWSON (McMillan) - After being threatened for months with the introduction of a national health scheme we now have before us 2 Bills, namely, the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Bill 1973, which we are considering in a cognate debate. Both are machinery measures for the Utopia of Hayden and they precede several other Bills which we are told will arrive during the Autumn session. If ever we have seen a piecemeal approach *o such a complete change of medical, hospital and health services we have seen it with the introduction of portion of the scheme in the form of these 2 Bills. The rest will come in the autumn and then, of course, will follow the winter when the trees will be bare of their leaves but the trunks and limbs will be there for all to see. This is a shallow piece of socialist legislation designed to build a monolithic monster which will cost the taxpayers of this nation considerably more than the present scheme and not give them the service that they have been accustomed to getting from the present scheme.

I congratulate the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) on his magnificent contribution to the debate in support of the amendment so capably and concisely explained by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). The list of people and organisations completely opposed to the whole concept of Labor's scheme is long and impressive, comprising State governments, a wide range of medical organisations and highly qualified doctors, the hospital and medical voluntary insurances funds, the national working party of the Catholic hospitals, the private and community hospitals, the private nursing homes, nurses, organisations representing country medical staffs, and the boards of management of many public hospitals. This information was amongst overwhelming evidence made available to the Country Party committee that carried out a very deep study of these matters. Those of us who have been associated with hospitals and insurance funds know only too well that administrative costs are best controlled and kept to a minimum by the participation of the community as members of boards of management or directors of contributory funds. They are the medium through which the rest of the community is encouraged to take an interest in the institution in its locality. This creates a very human service which in turn creates a sense of shared ownership in the rest of the community. This scheme will render all to a computer number.

Having had 15 years experience as an executive member of the Board of Management of the West Gippsland Base Hospital, I believe that I am competent to assess some of the frailties of this Hayden scheme. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has not mentioned what effect this plan will have on the capital expenditure for the necessary expansion of hospitals. Another point to be considered is: What provision has been made to cover the payments to the hospital for repatriation patients, workers' compensation cases, wards of State, and so on, and what time would elapse before payments would be made? We all believe that there should be adequate and equal opportunity for all people but it will not be found in the promulgation of this socialist legislation.

The Country Party carried out, as did the Liberal Party, a very deep and comprehensive study of what was being advocated by the Minister for Social Security. We could never really get the true story of what this professed socialist proposed to put to this Parliament. Eventually he did us the courtesy of presenting a White Paper to the Parliament. It was aptly named because it told a number of white lies. I got sick of reading the slanted and misleading explanations. In fact, I found difficulty in assessing its true content. It was inaccurate and presumptuous, a figment of the imagination. It could rightly be termed 'Hayden's Utopia'. Our committee, led by the member for Indi and comprising the member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), the member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe), the member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), the member for Wimmera (Mr King), the member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), and me, realised at the outset that the pro-Hayden Press would paint the Opposition as being merely obstructive and negative, so we set about doing a constructive evaluation. As a committee, we found very little support - and certainly of little consequence - for a national health scheme as an alternative to the present successful scheme. When updated by the proposed amendment, which members on this side of the House are supporting, the present scheme will be without doubt the best in the world.

The Country Party is firmly opposed to the proposed national health scheme as an alternative scheme. We support an extension of the existing scheme to cover areas of weakness. The 3 main areas of weakness are pensioners, low income groups, and para-medical services. We would support a proposal of temporary insurance for those who are unavoidably uninsured, justified on welfare grounds. If we strengthen the existing scheme in this way and come to an agreement with doctors on cost predictability, the Australian system of health care will be the best in the world. I believe that doctors should now be prepared, particularly in view of the successful outcome of the recent tribunal hearing, to consider seriously the establishment of a fairly and properly structured standing tribunal to keep the enormous list of over 4,000 medical services under permanent review, for the purpose of setting benefit levels. The recent decision handed down by the Medical Fees Tribunal broadly supports the fee levels of the doctors and indicates that there has been unfair and untruthful maligning of the profession by people inside and outside the Parliament who have a vested interest in inflicting on Australia the depressing hand of a socialist society.

I oppose Labor's scheme on several other grounds. Country Party opinion is that in country areas the workload of doctors will become unbearable and that country people will have less chance of their own doctor treating them in the local hospital. This is because the doctor will be employed by the hospital and not by the patient. Only doctors receiving salary from the hospital will be given access to that particular hospital. With more centralisation in Canberra, the local hospital board which to date has run the hospital efficiently will have less influence on the management and development of the local hospital. I have already explained to the House the benefits of having a local community board of management, with the interests of the local people, who contribute to make the hospital something of purpose in their area.

The present position with regard to hospital and medical insurance is that only 3.6 per cent of the population have no formal hospital cover, and 6.3 per cent have no medical cover. Mr Hayden's scheme will be able to cover significantly less people for many years. According to the Deeble report, it is expected that 20 per cent will not be covered. The fact that a levy is paid does not mean a social security card will be automatically issued. Several groups, including families in which the wife works, will pay more for a service that will not be as good as the present scheme. At present, 80 per cent of people insured for hospital cover opt for intermediate ward or private ward accommodation. The Minister is providing public ward accommodation.

I agree with the honourable member for Indi that it is difficult to see how this scheme will bc cheaper for seven out of 10 single people. I do not think it will be cheaper for any single people. For example, if a man earns $120 a week gross the present rate is 52c, whereas the new levy will be $1.15. If he earns $70 a week gross, the present levy is 62c, with the new levy being 88c. So how can it be cheaper for seven out of 10 single people? How can it be cheaper for families? In the case of a married couple with 2 children with only the husband working, if the gross weekly income is $120, under the present scheme the rate is 52c, whereas under the new scheme it will be $1.52. Working married couples with no children who earn $120 a week contribute under the present scheme $1.08, with the rate for the new scheme being $2.20. The position of a working married couple with 2 children would be somewhat similar, with the new contribution of $2.08 comparing with the present contribution of $1.08. For preferred accommodation for a married couple with 2 children, with only the husband working and receiving $120 a week, at present the contribution is $1.44 and the new contribution will be $2. How dare the Minister stand up and deny the truth in this respect.

I think that we have demonstrated quite capably this evening that this scheme ought not be considered but ought to be thrown out. The Country Party committee, in the same way as the Nimmo Committee in 1969, found that there was no support at all for the often expressed view that the number of different organisations adds to the cost of the scheme. We examined the operations of a large number of friendly societies and closed funds and found that their service to contributors was extremely good and that they had been most successful organisations in keeping management expenses within proper limits. Have honourable members ever seen a bureaucratic body-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!If the honourable member for Indi wishes to conduct a debate in this chamber, I would suggest that he get to his feet and do so in the proper manner. If he does not remain silent - and since he has been in the chamber-

Mr Holten - What about the other fellows?

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